The Amazon Basin of Brazil

Ancient Civilizations, Modern Tribes and the Myth of El Dorado
A Chautauqua travel course for the community of the College of Southern Maryland

Once called a “counterfeit paradise” where soils were incapable of intensive agriculture, archaeologists in the Amazon Basin are now finding evidence of major ancient civilizations. This one-week travel course will journey up the Rio Negro in search of that evidence by visiting archaeological sites and meeting the tribal descendants of those ancient people.

Participants will fly into Manaus, Brazil, a 2 million person major metropolis on the bank of the Amazon River. The first day will start with a tour of that amazing city, followed by lectures from Dr. Barnhart and a local archaeologist. The group will learn about “terra preta”, a black soil layer covering much of the Amazon Basin and how it represents an intensive agriculture technique used there for over 2000 years.

Starting on August 1st, the course will board the Amazon Clipper Premium, a luxury riverboat equipped with cabins with beds, AC and hot water showers. The boat is reserved just for our group and a kitchen staff will serve three meals a day in a fully equipped onboard dining hall. For the next 4 days, the group will canoe and hike through the Amazon visiting tribes, observing wildlife and exploring archaeological sites. Evening lectures on board the vessel will augment the discussions during day trips into the rainforest.

At the villages, the Tukano and Dessana people will be asked about their shared myths of Nhamini – Wi, an ancient stone road that led out of the Amazon into the Andes, and its connection to El Dorado. Questions will also be asked about the Fanged Deity, a god of the Andes that Dr. Barnhart has long theorized finds its origins in the Amazon Basin. Returning to Manaus on August 4th, participants will visit the site of a colonial rubber tree plantation before arriving back to their hotel in Manaus. The final day will start with a visit to the Manaus zoo and a final lunch together. Free time that afternoon will let the group relax before the long evening flights back to the USA.

For people with an interest in...

History, archaeology, anthropology, ecology, biology, indigenous art, mythology, sociology, and other related science and social sciences fields.


While not required, participants are encouraged to have at least some knowledge of the cultures of the Amazon Basin. Dr. Ed Barnhart can recommend readings for those interested in learning more before the trip. Day trips will involve hiking and canoeing around in hot and humid weather. While it will not be physically challenging, participants in weak physical condition are encouraged to build strength and stamina before the trip.

$2700 per person (double room lodging)
Add $400 for single room lodging supplement
Participants are responsible for arranging their own flight reservations to and from Manaus, Brazil. Since participants come from all over the country, recommending a single flight is impossible. As of October 2017, round trip flights from Miami to Manaus are running about $1000 on average on airlines like Insel Air and Latam Air. US carriers like United and American are posting much higher prices. Of course, the airline industry is dependent on the market and fees are subject to change. The best flights currently arrive on July 30 late in the evening (about 11pm) and depart extremely early on August 6 (like 3am).
Hotels During the Course
Manaus - Hotel Mercure Manaus

Riverboat - The Amazon Clipper Premium - All cabins have windows overlooking the Amazon, are equipped with private bathrooms with hot water, have 110v “American” outlets and 24/7 AC. The boat’s restaurant on the middeck serves three meals a day during our voyage on the Negro River. Humic acid from the rain forest depresses mosquitos. On our 2017 trip, mosquitoes were absent.
Lodging, transportation – including private ground transportation and the riverboat, breakfasts in Manaus, all meals during the riverboat expedition, all entry fees, professional guides and translators during tribe visits, and evening lectures. Digital copies of the presentations given during the course will be provided upon request.
Not Included
Airfare to/from Manaus, airport transfers to and from hotel in Manaus, lunches and dinners in Manaus, and gratuities.
Brazilian Visas
Brazil requires all US residents to have an entry visa prior to travelling to Brazil.

As of October 2017 the costs for a Brazilian visa are $160 and must be arranged through the Brazilian Consulate.
Each participant is responsible for obtaining their visa.
For an additional fee, visa service companies can handle the process for you. We recommend
Count on the visa application process taking about one month. Once you have your visa, it's good for five years and multiple entries.
How to register for the tour

To secure a place in the course, a $600 deposit to Ancient Explorations is required. The course is limited to 25 participants. Balance payments will be due in two installments - 50% due at 90 days before the course on April 30th and the remaining 50% due at 30 days before the course on June 30th.

You must also fill out the registration form (PDF) and email it to Ancient Explorations at Or if you prefer, send a printed out copy to the address below.

Pay by check
Please send your deposit by check made out to Ancient Explorations to:
Ancient Explorations
3267 Bee Caves Rd
Suite 107-161
Austin, TX 78746
Pay with PayPal